Friday, May 11, 2012
So here I am, on travel! Because science is a collaborative enterprise, it involves quite a bit of travel. This travel can be to conduct research, present research results (and see others') at a conference, or learn about something new that you're trying to figure out how to do and start new collaborations. This week I'm in California to do the latter. I received some funds from EPSCoR (a program to improve research infrastructure in states that don't get a lot of research funding -yeah West Virginia is one of those states) to establish some collaborations with people that have built instruments for micro satellites to support our current collaboration to provide the science instruments for some planned microsatellite launches. So yesterday we visited NASA Ames to talk with people that have been doing these for awhile. While we were there, we visited the lab of another person that I did some collaboration with back in grad school. To make the trip even more worthwhile, today we visited a company that does plasma processing of wafers to get some ideas for relevant experiments that we could do in the lab. This was all piggybacked onto a conference that our postdoc and grad student were presenting at this week. I have had the opportunity to travel to some great places throu my job. As a grad student, I got to do research for a summer in Australia. I have traveled above the arctic circle in tromso, Norway and saw the midnight sun. Through all of this I have worked with and met lots of scientists. My husband thinks this is all a big boondoggle, and everything should be done by Skype. Now, we do a lot of meetings by teleconference or web conference, but some things just need to be done in person. At conferences, you're likely to see a talk or meet a person that you never would have if you were just checking out select talks online. Plus your own research is more likely to be seen by a wider audience when they're all there in person. This is especially important for younger scientists trying to network for jobs. Similarly, our meeting with the second person at Ames yesterday allowed us to tell her about previous work that our group had done that will help her out with her current research, and we may have found a solution to her two-body problem (finding jobs for both spouses in the same city). Next week, I am doing another short trip that seems a lot more like a boondoggle, but is not supported by federal dollars. I am working with a team that is developing educational materials on the science of cycling and zip lining, so we're going on a trip to do some zip lining and mountain biking to understand a bit more about the location that we will be working with so we can figure out how to integrate the educational materials with the terrain. We will also be meeting with e people in charge of the site to discuss our ideas and plans.